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The best and worst defenders of 2014-2015

Welcome to Money B-ball!

I will be using data on NBA player statistics to model player performance. For the first post of this blog, I used data from the 2014-2015 NBA season to evaluate the effectiveness of NBA players in defending shooters by looking at how much they reduced the normal shooting averages of NBA shooters.

In this analysis, I found that the top 10 defenders in reducing total shooting averages are:
1) Andrew Bogut (-9%)
2) Rudy Gobert (-8%)
3) Tony Allen (-8%)
4) Andre Roberson (-7%)
5) Roy Hibbert (-7%)
6) Draymond Green (-6%)
7) Serge Ibaka (-6%)
8) Anthony Davis (-5%)
9) Joakim Noah (-5%)
10) Trevor Booker (-5%)

There's a lot of familiar names on this list - notable shot blockers like Rudy Gobert and Serge Ibaka. Most of these players are power forwards and centers, with the exception of Tony Allen and Andre Roberson, who are both defensive specialists. Andrew Bogut reduced the shooting averages of players he faced by more than 9%!

Here are the bottom 5 worst defenders:
1) Jose Calderon (+13%)
2) James Ennis (+10%)
3) Brandon Davies (+10%)
4) Alexey Shved (+9%)
5) Zach LaVine (+9%)

These are mostly guards who are not known for their lateral quickness and effort. Forget hiring a shooting coach, just play against Jose Calderon; he can raise your shooting average by 13%!

Let's look at 3pts and layups/dunks:
Top 10 3pt defenders:
1) Draymond Green (-10%)
2) Joakim Noah (-9%)
3) Andre Roberson (-8%)
4) Bradley Beal (-8%)
5) Anthony Davis (-8%)
6) Cory Joseph (-8%)
7) Taj Gibson (-8%)
8) Damian Lillard (-7%)
9) Lou Williams (-7%)
10) DeMarre Carroll (-7%)

This list is a bit surprising. We have some of the same great defenders in Draymond, Andre, and AD, but now we have some scrappy guards like Bradley Beal, Cory Joseph, and Dame in the mix.

Worst 3pt defenders:
1) Jose Calderon (+17%)
2) Timofey Mozgov (+15%)
3) Perry Jones (+14%)
4) Dante Cunningham (+13%)
5) Darrell Arthur (+12%)

Wow. Jose Calderon. He was reeeally bad at defense. I'm not sure how anyone can gift a shooter +17% on their 3pt percentage, but he found a way. In the 105 3pt shots he defended, 54 of them went in.

Top 10 rim protectors (within 5 feet of basket):
1) Andrew Bogut (-22%)
2) Samuel Dalembert (-18%)
3) Rudy Gobert (-17%)
4) Roy Hibbert (-13%)
5) Serge Ibaka (-13%)
6) Kosta Koufos (-12%)
7) Taj Gibson (-11%)
8) Josh Smith (-11%)
9) Hassan Whiteside (-11%)
10) Tim Duncan (-10%)

Wow, Andrew Bogut in in 2014 was a force to be reckoned with. Remind me not to try to dunk on him! An incredible -22% on opposing shooters' shooting averages within 5 feet of the basket. That is amazing. Even in 2014 Rudy Gobert was a monster around the rim. It is interesting to see Samuel Dalembert also up there. There is also a steep drop off after Rudy.

Bottom 10 rim protectors (thresholded by >180 rim shots defended):
1) Dirk Nowitzki (+5%)
2) Channing Frye (+5%)
3) Paul Millsap (+5%)
4) Kevin Love (+4%)
5) Gorgui Dieng (+1%)
6) Greg Monroe (0%)
7) DeAndre Jordan (0%)
8) Nikola Vucevic (0%)
9) Tristan Thompson (-1%)
10) Brook Lopez (-1%)

There are others that could be on this list, but they did not defend more than 180 near-basket shots. Parts of this list are not so surprising. Even in 2014 Dirk was not very effective at defending the rim. However, DeAndre Jordan at #7 is surprising. Even though he is a great shot blocker, he may not be very good at defending bigs. Either that or he lets quicker guards get by him for easy layups.

I hope you found this interesting! More to come!
I used this dataset for my analysis:
This kernel can be found here:


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